The end of one too many relationships can be chalked out to have stemmed from a fear of commitment. It may come as no surprise, but turns out there is a pretty solid reason behind this fear and researchers recently explored it to its depths.
A new study by the University of Texas reveals that the reason we have trouble settling down into a long-term relationship is because we’re constantly analysing and searching for a better, more compatible mate.
The research, reported by Vice examined the dynamics of 119 men and 140 women in long-term relationships and discovered that individuals chose their partners based on a subconscious, yet keen evaluation of 27 qualities including attractiveness, intelligence, health and financial responsibility.
The subjects were then segregated into two groups – the reachers and the settlers – to signify whether they were the more desirable partner in the relationship or not.
Upon tweaking the subjects’ environment, the study found that when the more desirable partners were exposed to other people that better fit their needs from an ideal partner, they found it harder to remain loyal and affectionate to their significant others.
The less desirable ones, on the other hand, were observed as satisfied and more likely to stay committed to their existing partner.
“We know that we have these kind of ideal preferences for what we’d want in a mate in a perfect world. We know what people desire, but it hasn’t been very clear what these desires do. This was us trying to find out if we can use our desires to predict what’s going on in our actual relationship.”
While this study didn’t observe couples long enough to conclusively state whether their relationships were doomed, it is expected that most of the pairs would see turbulence in case the settler met people closer to their ideal or if the reacher’s desirability took a low enough dip.
This dynamic between couples is at play at all times, a follow-up research demonstrated. The way an individual experiences a strained relationship depends entirely on whether they are the reacher or the settler.
The less desirable one would, on the one hand, try harder to cope and make more of an effort to make themselves a more attractive mate and reconcile their bond, while the more desirable ones are likely to give up and start looking for other options.
In the modern dating context, with apps like Tinder giving people access to a functionally infinite number of prospective mates and essentially exacerbating our inability to commit, the need to ‘upgrade’ plays an even more fundamental part in mating tendencies.
So I guess the only question is – Are you the settler, or are you reacher?